The crows murder, p.17
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.17
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  When we stepped inside and closed the door, Wesley looked around with a small, satisfied smile on his face. “They did well with this,” he commented, and I frowned in confusion. “The decorating, I mean. I had my doubts about how those manly men were going to pull off a woman’s bedroom, but maybe they took my suggestion and hired a decorator.”

  “You knew they were buying this house before...” I trailed off. Even though he clearly wasn’t dead, it was taking my fragile emotions a little bit to catch up. “Of course, you said before that you drew up the contracts. Was I the only one out of the loop on that one?”

  “We wanted to surprise you, sweetheart,” he told me with a smile. “But yeah, we were discussing it that week you and I were in Ireland. I really thought they’d fuck it all up, but they did well. Better than I could have done, anyway. If it had been left up to me, you would have really cool technology and no furniture.”

  I snorted a small laugh. “That’s probably true. Here.” I tossed him the hoodie that I’d been wearing earlier in the day, which was draped over my dresser. “I’ll grab the rest; hang on.”

  Disappearing into my walk-in closet, I dragged out the suitcase, which I hadn’t let the guys unpack. When I set it down on the bed in front of him, Wes reached for the hem of his shirt, and a sudden wave of awkwardness enveloped me.

  Blushing, I turned my back on him and headed for the door. “I’ll, um, leave you to change. Although your room probably has stuff in it too; I’m not sure. I haven’t been in there.” Jesus, Kit, quit rambling like a weirdo! “So, um, I’ll go make us more coffee?”

  “Sure,” Wesley chuckled. “I’ll be down soon. I might actually shower. Caora was a little behind the times with modern plumbing.”

  Biting my lip to keep from picturing Wes in the shower, I made my way back down to the kitchen, where I brewed a new pot of coffee and poured two huge mugs.

  “Got enough for one more?” Caleb asked, appearing in the doorway, and I nodded, fetching another mug.

  “Can’t sleep?” I guessed, handing him his coffee.

  “Didn’t bother trying,” he admitted, following me out to the veranda and taking a seat in one of the seven wicker armchairs. “Do you mind if I hang out for a bit?”

  “Not at all,” I murmured, sipping my hot drink and relaxing back in my own chair.

  Neither of us spoke for a long while, and when Wesley rejoined us, looking fresh from the shower and dressed in his customary crumpled T-shirt and hoodie, he simply took his coffee and joined us in silence.

  One by one, the other guys all trickled back out to the balcony carrying their own mugs of coffee or—in River’s case—tea. Each of them just silently took a seat in a matching armchair and stared up at the stars with us.

  So much for us all getting some sleep.

  But I guess sometimes, just being physically present was more important than words, and that was all we really needed in that moment.

  To just be.

  20

  Despite all the coffee I’d consumed and my claims that I would be unlikely to sleep, I must have passed out the second my head hit that pillow. I didn’t even remember Wesley joining me, but when I woke up, I was wrapped in his warm embrace and feeling bittersweet.

  “Morning, sweetheart,” he murmured from behind me, kissing my neck and sending shivers scuttling across my skin.

  “Hey,” I whispered back, not bothering to open my eyes as I snuggled into his embrace. “How are you feeling this morning, you know, being back on Earth?”

  Wesley chuckled softly, his warm breath stirring my hair. “Better than I ever imagined. There were some days I wondered if I would ever get back.”

  “Will you tell me about it? Caora?” I asked, and he sighed as he kissed my neck.

  “Later?” he offered. “I want to know about what happened after… you know, after you thought I had died.”

  I groaned and rolled over to face him. “Later?” I echoed him. “I’m not really ready to revisit all of that. Let’s just enjoy the fact that we’re both here now. Alive.”

  He smiled at me. “Sounds good. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be anyway.”

  Wrapping his arms around me, he pulled me tight, and I snuggled my face into the crook of his neck, taking a surprising amount of joy from just cuddling him. It wasn’t long before we were interrupted though, but that was the way of my life these days.

  “Kitten,” River called out, tapping lightly on my door, then opening it just a crack. “Bridget has resurfaced. We thought you might like to know straight away.”

  “What?” I scrambled out of my giant bed and snatched a bra from my floor. I never had been amazing at putting my clothes away. “I’ll be two seconds!”

  “Bridget?” Wesley asked me with a frown, “The twins weren’t able to track her down this whole time?”

  “Nope.” I shook my head, hooking my bra and tugging a purple tank top over it. “She just dropped off the face of the Earth for a while there. We tried reaching her at that hotel she told me she was staying at, and she’d left a message for me. It just said she had gone out of town but would be back soon.”

  “Let me guess, the guys installed a tracker, but it’s probably a pretty basic one...” He trailed off as he yanked his own T-shirt back on, covering the stunning crow tattoo on his torso. “I will check in with the crows to see if I can get eyes on her, but that only helps if she is outdoors and within sight of a crow when I scan. So as well as that…” He started murmuring under his breath about wire taps and hacking the hotel’s security system, and I knew I’d lost him.

  “Come on,” I said, opening my door and hurrying downstairs to where the guys were already up and preparing breakfast. “So, what’s the news? Did she call back?”

  When we had first received her infuriating message, I’d left a very casual message for her to call back and left the number for a secured voicemail account. The fact that she’d even left a message with the hotel in the first place told me she’d been expecting to hear from me, which gave me hope. It also made me mad as hell.

  “Yeah, about an hour or so ago. Just said that she was back at the hotel if you wanted to get in touch.” River handed me the phone and pursed his lips. “What will you say?”

  “Exactly what we discussed,” I replied, shrugging. “Play dumb about the bracelet and ask if we can meet up.”

  He nodded. “The twins can go and see if they’re able to apprehend her anyway—”

  “Don’t bother,” Wesley cut him off, tapping on a laptop that I don’t even know where he found. “Looks like she’s just having her hotel room phone forwarded to an undisclosed location. Makes sense; if she suspects Kit’s onto her and she knows what Caleb is capable of, it’d be pretty stupid to stay there waiting to be picked up.”

  “Well, let’s see what she says to meeting up, then.” I took the phone from River and dialed the number for the hotel in LA where Bridget had been staying. Holding the phone to my ear and listening to it ring, my stomach churned over in knots. The only parent I’d ever truly known had just died less than twenty-four hours ago, and here I was about to arrange a meeting with the woman who’d given me up as a helpless seven-year-old.

  “Room seventeen-oh-eight please,” I asked politely when reception picked up, and there was a click as they connected me through.

  It rang four times before she answered.

  “Christina,” she greeted me. “I’m so glad you called back.”

  “It’s Kit,” I snapped on instinct, then took a breath to control my inner bitch. “How did you know it was me calling?” Aside from the facts that you’ve set up a phone diversion and I’m probably the only one calling this number.

  “Oh, just a hunch,” she replied. “Sorry I missed your call last week; I had some business to take care of with an old friend.”

  I couldn’t stop my eyes from rolling at that one. Old friend, huh? Seemed like anyone we spoke to who knew Bridget was not a fan. Not even Nicholai, who for some re
ason still stuck by her, and certainly not Vic.

  Frowning, I grabbed a scrap of paper and scribbled on it to the guys, “Have we got any leads on finding Vic again?”

  To Bridget, I replied, “Uh-huh, that’s okay; it wasn’t urgent. I hope everything was okay with your friend?”

  Bridget made a noise in her throat that I probably wasn’t supposed to hear. “It will be; he’s just lost his way a little. Now, you called me for a reason, I imagine?”

  “I did.” I smiled, despite her not being able to see me. One of the lessons my stupidly expensive school had taught me was that people could hear a smile in your voice, even when they couldn’t see you. “I wondered if maybe we could meet. I have so many questions about who—what—we are and about those years that I can’t remember. Would that be okay? To meet?”

  “Oh, that’s what you were calling for?” She sounded genuinely surprised. Had she really thought I’d call and accuse her of blocking my magic over the phone? She really didn’t know me at all. “Well sure, I guess we can do that. I’m about to leave LA though; would it be okay to meet up elsewhere? I imagine Caleb can bring you in a portal.”

  I glanced up at Caleb and raised my eyebrows at him, but he just shrugged. The guys were clearly leaving the decisions up to me in this circumstance.

  “Yeah, for sure,” I replied and wrote down the address and time she gave me. “I’ll see you then.”

  “Oh, and Christina? I’d prefer it if you only brought Caleb with you. Nothing against your other guardians, but I just don’t know them. You can understand, I’m sure. We can’t be too careful with so few of our species left in this world.” It was a weak excuse and one I wasn’t buying for a second, but I agreed anyway. It didn’t bother me to only bring Caleb. We already knew she was estranged from Vic and no one had so much as laid eyes on the mysterious Lachlan, so she should only have Nicholai with her.

  Although we should also work on tracking this Lachlan character down. If Jonathan was right in that he’d escaped the geas Bridget was holding Vic and Nicholai’s silence with, well shit, he could be some serious help to us.

  I’d add it to my mental list of things to do before the end of the world.

  For now, from what we could tell, Nicholai was just a fox shifter and likely not a threat against Caleb’s blood magic. Right?

  When the call disconnected, I looked to the guys for their thoughts. We had already come up with our rough plan a week ago when we first tried contacting Bridget, but maybe Wesley might have some other ideas.

  “So, meet up with her and confront her about the bracelet... and then what?” Wes asked us, pausing in what he was doing with his computer. “I doubt she’ll fess up and take it off you.”

  “I agree,” I nodded. “We had been thinking to place a magic tracer on her so we could get a better idea of what’s going on. She just popped back into my life right when this supposed war is about to go down, and it all seems really convenient, don’t you think?”

  “You’re right that she’s unlikely to take the bracelet off,” Vali agreed. “She went to the trouble of putting it on Regina and then spelled it so it would be unnoticed, so there has to be something in it for her. Either she needs Kit powerless for something, or...” He grimaced, trailing off his sentence.

  “Or she has some plan to steal my magic,” I finished for him. It wasn’t something we had ever really discussed before, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind about a thousand times before. “Granny Winter up in Harrow mentioned Bridget has been trying for years to bond more than three guardians, which could only be to make herself stronger. It stands to reason that this might be a play for the same thing. Power.”

  Wesley nodded, chewing the edge of his lip in thought. “So, you plant a tracker and then just... let her go?”

  “We’re open to suggestions, genius,” Cole snapped, but it was done in good humor.

  Wes playfully flipped him off and then rubbed his forehead. “No, I don’t really have anything better. I mean, you’re right in deciding further information is more important than just grabbing her at the first chance you get. Something tells me she wouldn’t crack under torture, so you’d just be wasting an opportunity. No, this seems smart. Plant a tracer that won’t be affected by whatever is cloaking her whereabouts, and then we can do a little spying to see what’s going on. Do we think she’s working for someone else?”

  I sighed heavily and snaked a piece of freshly buttered bread from the nearby plate. “I don’t know what to think. I really, really don’t want to believe my bio-mom is on the wrong side of all of this crap, but it’s looking more and more likely.”

  “We’ve yet to meet anyone who has thought very highly of her,” Austin added, pushing his plate closer to me so I could access the next piece of bread after I finished cramming the first one into my mouth. There was something seriously amazing about fresh bread and butter. The only thing that could make it better was coffee.

  “We should probably catch Wesley up on everything we learned while he was dead,” River suggested, “then check out this book that he saved from the fire in Ireland. See if there might be anything useful in there for Kitten.”

  There was a tightness around his eyes that made me suspicious of that last statement. Not that I ever thought River would be duplicitous, but maybe he wanted to have a flick through and see if any of the other species jumped out as familiar. It was what I would do in his situation.

  “Here,” Vali said in a quiet voice, placing a huge mug of coffee down in front of me and a slightly smaller one in front of Wes. “Got to keep you two addicts happy.”

  I grinned but couldn’t speak thanks with my mouthful of bread, but Wesley gave Vali an appreciative nod.

  “Thanks,” Wes said to the Romanian, taking a sip. “You seem more mellow with everyone. How are things going with the girls running your empire?”

  Vali gave a little huff and shrugged. “I’m not too sure. Lucy missed our scheduled catch-up, so I might need to check my emails. Actually, do you mind if I do that now while you get up to speed on what you missed?”

  “Sure,” Wesley replied, passing his laptop over the table. It was what Vali had just said about Lucy that had me worried though. She hadn’t picked up when I’d called her from Ireland or any of the few times I’d tried since then. I’d assumed she was just worn thin with Vali’s business and hadn’t checked our line. It happened. I knew I hadn’t checked it for almost a month before calling it.

  Her not being in touch with Vali was a bigger worry. Maybe I’d try her again later, before going to meet with Bridget. Hopefully she’d emailed him or something. Maybe Elena and Finn had taken her away for a vacation.

  For now, I needed to focus on getting Wesley up to date with everything we now knew. Jonathan’s plans for a supernatural army, his revelations that we had two enemies to keep an eye on, and most importantly, the strange stuff he’d told me before Simon killed him.

  Based on what little he’d said, I could only assume his saving me from Suzette’s house of horrors was no accident. He’d been actively seeking me out… because he knew my grandmother?

  I wish I knew more.

  Fuck that, I needed to know more.

  21

  VALI

  I started up the encrypted sites that I used for all my business emails and admin while Kit began quietly filling Wesley in on what had being going on while he was missing. It couldn’t be easy for her, talking about Jonathan like this so soon after seeing him die, but she was doing so well.

  I’d really worried about how she might have responded to everything I’d said after his death. God knew I wasn’t the most sensitive, new-age guy out there, but that just wasn’t what she’d needed. Not when so many lives were potentially on the line.

  No, she’d needed that dose of tough love, and she was strong enough to take it.

  Sighing to myself, I drummed my fingertips on the table while waiting for my server to connect. It was normal, though. I had it
routed through so many different countries to hide the signal it was to be expected that it might take a while to boot up.

  When it finally loaded on my screen, I was shocked by the first email sitting in my inbox.

  It wasn’t from Lucy or my sister, as I’d expected it to be.

  It was from the Director of Omega, Kit’s now deceased adoptive father.

  What the shit...

  I clenched my jaw tight to keep from drawing attention as I clicked into the unread email to see what it said. I was beyond stunned though. The time stamp on it suggested he’d sent it while on the phone to Kit, right before he was killed. Why would he have emailed me though?

  He had my contact details, as many officials did, for when they needed to trade a favor with the darker side of the law. Most recently, we had been in contact to arrange Kit’s safe retrieval from the Onyx Auction where that disgusting pervert Mr. Gray had tried to purchase her.

  Sucking in a deep breath, I angled the screen a little more away from the others and started to read.

  Dragomir, I’ll make this quick as I don’t have a lot of time left. By the time you read this, I will already be dead... or wishing I was. I can only hope that the people who have infiltrated my compound are too stupid to keep me alive.

  As one of my daughter’s bonded guardians, you have a sacred duty to protect her at all times, but you and I both know you are not a good man. You’ve done things in your short lifetime that I would never wish my girl exposed to, but I do believe you’ve done them for the greater good.

  It’s because of this that I’m passing along this information to you. You’ll do what needs to be done and not let emotions or mercy cloud your judgement.

  Bridget needs to die. None of this will end until she is finished.

  There are only two ways a Ban Dia can be killed—at the hand of her dianoch or by the hand of a direct relation, daughter to mother or mother to daughter.

 
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